Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn initially proposed making it mandatory for apartment complex owners in high-crime areas to sign a criminal trespass affidavit, allowing police to search the outside of the properties and look for violations of fire, health or city regulations. Police would look at things such as lighting, fencing and landscaping and require the apartment complexes to comply with property regulations and suggestions by police to reduce crime in the area. Each complex would also have to pay a $250 fee, according to the proposal, and conduct regular crime-watch meetings.
Flynn said his proposal uses tried and true methods of eliminating crime at apartment complexes.
“We have a whole body of knowledge of how you can use lighting and fencing and trimming shrubs, and you can arrange your home in a certain way to make it less likely that a certain crime can occur,” Flynn said.
Goldstein fought the proposal, arguing the mandatory nature of the program violated search and seizure and due process rights of property owners provided by the U.S. Constitution.
Flynn said he thought his proposal was a gentler way to encourage apartment complex owners to reduce crime, rather than simply revoking their business licenses.
“We’ve always had the ability to threaten taking the license away or suspending or not renewing the overall business license,” Flynn said. “That would be a very radical move.”
In contrast with the existing method of revoking a crime-ridden business’ license, Flynn said, the new program would offer police and the apartment complex managers more ability to negotiate and work together to reduce crime.
After Flynn proposed the program May 28 and Goldstein objected, Flynn changed the proposal from mandatory to voluntary. But at Monday’s City Council meeting, Goldstein said he still found issue with the wording of the document because he said apartment complexes could be penalized by police if they agreed to be a part of the program but couldn’t complete the required tasks of the program.
“The concern I have — and expressed the other night — is that this is a very intrusive ordinance,” Goldstein said. “This is not a voluntary ordinance. There are penalties that you can sanction someone for not following (the ordinance).”
Goldstein said the city government should not play a role in regulating the day-to-day operations of a business, even if it does have a high rate of crime.
Other council members supported the ordinance because they said a solution is urgently needed to reduce the crime around the apartment complexes.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he approved of the proposal, even though it gave the police the power to regulate business’ operations if they are a part of the program. He said there is precedence for ordinances allowing city government to encroach on individuals’ rights.
“Even in our zoning laws, we have unlawful zoning laws,” Tumlin said. “It’s a threat that we live with, but we look to the attorneys to minimize it.”
Others on the council said the threat to individuals’ rights was not as important as reducing crime.
“I’d like to give the police department something with some teeth,” Councilwoman Michelle Kelly Cooper said.
She said she approved of the changes to the document, but she was glad the police could still have some control to attempt to reduce crime.
Councilman Anthony Coleman agreed.
“I don’t want to tie the police’s hands at doing what they do,” Coleman said.
When Kelly mentioned recent violent crimes in Marietta, such as a shooting that injured a 12-year- old at Cinnamon Ridge Apartments on May 28, the other council members, except Goldstein, agreed the proposed ordinance needed to give police more power to regulate businesses.
“It gives me a little bit of pause when we are defending apartment owners that haven’t done what they need to be doing to keep our city free of crime,” Kelly said. “Let the owners fight for their defense and come forward and tell us what they’re going to do to keep the area safe, if they find this too imposing.”
Goldstein objected to her view, saying the rights provided to people in the Constitution were absolute and the council could not take them away for any cause.
“The rights don’t depend on what I like or don’t like,” Goldstein said.
A majority of council members ultimately thought the voluntary proposal was a good compromise.
They voted Monday 5-1-1, with Goldstein opposed and Councilman Grif Chalfant absent, to move the voluntary ordinance proposal forward to tonight’s meeting for final action.